Why I Sort My Characters Into Hogwarts Houses
J.K. Rowling’s student houses in Hogwarts catered to our very human need to categorize everything, including ourselves. How many “What Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?” quizzes have we taken since the first Harry Potter book was published? How many of us have read all the descriptions for the Hogwarts Houses and said, “Yes, good, this is me,” after picking one?
Many use a Hogwarts Sorting to help flesh out their characters just a little bit further, tossing their characters with the likes of Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Luna Lovegood, or Cedric Diggory based on the key traits that represent the houses. Brave characters go to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff praises loyalty, Ravenclaws are clever, and cunning characters are housed in Slytherin.
These traits are usually taken at face value, something that I do not agree with.
Let’s be real, if the Sorting Hat sorted kids based on the traits they have, the Weasley twins would have been in Slytherin for their joke shop ambitions or Ravenclaw for their penchant for charms and inventions. Ron could have a Hufflepuff for how loyal he was for both Harry Potter and his family.
Instead, I believe the Sorting Hat picks your house based on what traits you value the most.
What You Are vs What you Value
Hermione was sorted into Gryffindor based on her excitement to try new things, eager to apply what she’s learned to the world around her, and take risks in the name of equality. Neville asked for Hufflepuff but was put in Gryffindor, where it was shown how he idols his friends around him for being so brave, a trait he values and eventually grows into by the end of the series. Luna has always valued creativity and ideas, gifting her an open mind and placing her firmly in Ravenclaw.
In my latest novel, my first try at a mystery, I have a quartet of main characters whose points of view are rotated throughout the story. There’s Ivy, a K-9 officer with a low tolerance for inadequacy and a serious air about her. Xavier is a junior prosecutor, one who only wishes to do his job well and fairly, and put away criminals. Coral is a computer expert, freelancing her skills while never sugarcoating what she discovers. Laurel, the defense attorney, is always ready to trust in her clients and figure out what really happened during crimes.
Upon first glance, we seem to have a Slytherin, a Hufflepuff, a Ravenclaw, and a Gryffindor.
Yet, if I sort them based on what they value, Ivy would be the Hufflepuff. Hard work is second nature to her. She has strong opinions, but she is focused on finding the correct evidence and being sure that everyone — herself included — knows their worth, like Xavier.
Xavier takes strength from others, learning to take hold of his own courage and use that to help himself and those around him, like a Gryffindor. Chivalrous, he puts others’ needs before him, but is beginning to use that strength to also protect himself.
Coral is more Slytherin in nature with her creativity than Ravenclaw. She’s ambitious enough to create her own business and keep it running well. She doesn’t have a problem using her knowledge and skills to her advantage, her cunning tendencies making the other characters glad she’s using her power for good. She pushes the other characters to do the same, and allows them to slow herself down.
Laurel takes the Ravenclaw spot rather than Gryffindor. Laurel enjoys surrounding herself with others that are able to puzzle out answers, and she’s constantly learning. Laurel is one of the first characters we follow in the book, giving us more of a rapport than the others, and we’re with her as she appreciates the others’ different types of intelligence while creating her own route towards the answer.
Sorting characters based on traits that they are disallows growth. This character is already brave — if we know that, why do we care about how it’s demonstrated? It’s not a surprise nor character development.
But, by sorting characters based on the traits they value they most, they are able to grow and eventually embody said traits.